Cavaliers 101, Bulls 80
CLEVELAND (AP) _ Michael Jordan with a rookie guarding him in Cleveland? Take cover. The sky is raining dunks, jumpers and trash talk from His Airness, right?
The Chicago Bulls really must be in a slump.
Jordan was held under 20 points for the second straight game, and the new-look Cavaliers blew out the struggling Bulls 101-80 Tuesday night in one of Cleveland’s most convincing victories over Chicago in the Jordan era.
Jordan, who has owned Cleveland for years, said not so fast: The Bulls are playing too poorly to judge how good the Shawn Kemp-led Cavaliers really are.
``We certainly didn’t give them a challenge to see how good they look in terms of competition,″ said Jordan, who scored only 19 points while guarded by a young protege of his, rookie Derek Anderson.
``They came out and took us out of what we wanted to do, and basically we accepted it and didn’t put up too much of a fight,″ said Jordan, who was coming off a season-low 15 points against New Jersey.
Dennis Rodman echoed Jordan’s sentiments about the struggles of the five-time NBA champs. Somehow it meant less coming from Rodman, who was pondering retirement as recently as last week and didn’t take a shot or score a point in his second start of the season. He had five rebounds.
``Hopefully, this season is going to be over pretty quick, because it’s going to be a long one for the Chicago Bulls,″ Rodman said.
The Bulls, without the injured Scottie Pippen and with Rodman still trying to find his form, dropped to 4-3 and remained winless on the road as they seek a sixth NBA title this decade.
Wesley Person had 17 points for the Cavaliers (3-3), and rookie Brevin Knight had 10 points and seven assists. Mitchell Butler led the Cleveland bench brigade with a season-high 11 points.
Butler’s alley-oop dunk early in the fourth quarter came a few minutes after a similar throwdown by rookie Cedric Henderson, signifying how surprisingly easy this was for the young Cavs. It was Cleveland’s largest margin of victory over Chicago since a 22-point win in 1993, and Chicago’s worst loss since a 104-72 decision in New York on March 10, 1996.
``Right now, there’s no interest on this team,″ Rodman said.
Rodman’s anticipated (feared?) matchup with female referee Violet Palmer went off with only two minor incidents off the court. Afterward, Rodman was asked to critique the rookie ref’s performance. As usual, he held nothing back.
``Oh Lord,″ Rodman began. ``Well, if you take that hair off her, I think she’s a man.″
Rodman continued, ``I’ll probably get fined for that statement, but I don’t give a damn. Really.″
On the court, this was a form of revenge for Cleveland fans _ and for Kemp, too. The 6-foot-10 forward scored 21 points and beat the Bulls after his Seattle SuperSonics lost to them in the 1996 NBA finals.
Kemp gave his young team a pep talk in the locker room at halftime, when the Cavs led 52-36.
``Shawn got us together and said, `They’re still the world champions. We’ve got to keep them down,‴ Knight said.
The Cavs got 36 points from their bench and held Chicago to 37 percent shooting. Jordan, who drove the Cavs out of the playoffs with heartbreaking shots in 1989 and ’92, could only watch as Anderson threw down a double-pump, Jordan-like dunk to put an exclamation point on the victory late in the fourth.
``Everybody said he’d be trash-talking,″ said Anderson, who wears Jordan’s No. 23 and has a contract to wear his clothes and shoes. ``He didn’t say anything.″
In addition to his verbal swipes at the Bulls and the refs, Rodman criticized coach Phil Jackson for playing him only 12 minutes.
``If you’re going to play me like that, then don’t even put me on the floor,″ Rodman said. ``I don’t want to be there.″
Palmer, one of two women refs in the league this season, called Rodman for a block on Kemp’s drive with 9:18 left in the first quarter. Rodman did a little dance that included the signal for a blocking foul and got Palmer to laugh.
Rodman wasn’t so kind the second time Palmer blew the whistle on him two minutes later. Again called for blocking on Kemp, Rodman crouched on the baseline with the ball and was called for delay of game. He angrily pulled his shirt-tail out as he went to the sideline, and was still motioning to Palmer during a timeout.
Notes: During their five championship seasons, the Bulls never averaged fewer than 103 points per game. They came into the game averaging 89.5 _ 22nd in the league. They also never shot less than 47 percent from the field, but came in shooting 42.5 _ 23rd in the league. ... Rodman failed to reach double figures in rebounds for the 11th time in his last 26 games, including last year’s playoffs. ... Cleveland’s all-time biggest margin over the Bulls was 30 points, a 114-84 win in 1987.